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THE SITUATION ROOM

More Protests in Iran

Aired June 18, 2009 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Rick.

Breaking news. The streets of Tehran turned into a sea of black. At least 100,000 marchers -- maybe many, many more -- mourn Iran's election outcome and those who died protesting it. We're going live. Live to Iran in a moment.

An airline pilot dies in the middle of a transatlantic flight. An urgent call for a doctor onboard the only clue passengers had, that something was wrong.

And for the first time ever, the United States Senate officially apologizes to African-Americans for slavery and segregation.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics, and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The breaking news we're watching right now. A massive march through the streets of Tehran. A sea of protesters, many of them wearing black as a symbol of mourning for last week's presidential vote and for those who died in post-election violence.

Let's go to our man in Tehran right now. CNN's Reza Sayah is joining us. And we want to welcome our international viewers right now as well.

Reza, tell us what happened on this dramatic day.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this movement, the support behind Mir Hossein Moussavi, disgruntled candidate, keeps building and building. Really, what's fascinating is no one really knows where it's going to peak, where it's going to culminate.

For the sixth day in a row you have a massive rally in a major city square in Tehran. Once again, tens of thousands. Some estimates hundreds of thousands of supporters of Mir Hossein Moussavi came together. They gathered and they rallied, but this time they weren't wearing the color green, which has become the symbol of the Mir Hossein Moussavi camp.

Instead they wore black. Mr. Moussavi himself asked the supporters to wear black in support and in memory of the several people killed on Monday. But this has been six days of rallies in a row without government permission here in Iran. And that's unheard of.

And if you look at modern history, you'd be challenged to find anywhere in this region to where this has happened, Wolf. So this thing keeps on building and no one really knows where it's going to culminate. An amazing political drama continues to unfold here in Iran.

BLITZER: And the people of Iran, Reza, tomorrow will be hearing from the grand Ayatollah. Give us some perspective. What does this mean?

SAYAH: Well, this is huge tomorrow. Of course, he's at the center of this political drama, and it's going to be very important what he says, because if he comes out in support of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad like he initially did, a day after the elections, what he's going to be doing is essentially ignoring these tens, these hundreds of thousands of people who've come out day after day calling for a new election in support of Mir Hossein Moussavi.

But, instead, if he comes out in support of Mr. Moussavi, and maybe hinting that there's a possibility of a revote, then he's undermining not only President Ahmadinejad, he's also undermining this regime and perhaps even undermining himself. So this day is huge tomorrow. What he says in his address in Friday prayers.

We should also add that the Basij group, the hundreds of thousands of volunteers that support Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have called for a gathering themselves in support of the Islamic republic and the supreme leader. And that's going to happen tomorrow as well.

BLITZER: The Basij -- are these guy whose ride on these motorcycles, usually two of them and the guy in the back got a baton and he's trying to instill some order. These guys are totally loyal to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Is that right?

SAYAH: No question about it. They support him and you saw that support in the streets of Tehran earlier in this week where Mir Hossein Moussavi came out. They were antagonistic, they were hooting and hollering. And in return you had these Basij riding on motorcycles in pairs with baton. They really cracked down when we saw those brutal beatings over and over again.

But now you have this new strategy. And this is a remarkable thing that we're seeing unfold in the Mir Hossein Moussavi camp where the supporters keep silent. Not a word. And it's so remarkable to see these large gatherings and you can hear a pin drop. What they do is they have their slogans on placards and posters, peace signs in the air.

And another fascinating scene that we've seen is supporters of Mir Hossein Moussavi, the protesters in the past couple of days, now approach policemen with smiles. We're seeing them smile back. So the tension is clearly diffused over the past couple days. You haven't seen the clashes and that's really because of this new strategy. This silent protest that we've seen for the past couple of days.

BLITZER: Is the opposition, all those who are protesting, the dissent, if you will, are they able to get their messages out there, still, on the Internet? The various Web sites? SAYAH: Well, they're having a very, very difficult time, because of the government crackdown on dissent. They blocked a number of Web sites including Facebook. They've also blocked CNN International, CNN U.S. version. They can get texting, SMS-ing. They haven't been able to do that since election day last Friday.

The phone goes out. Mobile phone service goes out especially when there are rallies again today for a few hours. We didn't have it. That's the bad news, is that we can't -- I get access to these rallies with the ban on the media, the foreign media. But the good news is there's so many people who are yearning, hungry to get their messages out and they're using all sorts of venues to get them out.

Tweeter -- they're using proxy servers to break the filters. So they're getting their message out but they're not getting it through the conventional systems, through the media, because as you know, CNN and other members of the foreign media have been banned and this is our only report today, Wolf, because the Iranian government yesterday told us one report per day until further notice.

BLITZER: And there are very few supporters western reporters left in Tehran. You're one of the few that are left there, Reza. But you're really restricted and I want to be transparent with our viewers in the United States and around the world right now. You're really restricted as to where you can go and what -- who you can talk to.

SAYAH: Yes. And, and really, we've had to get creative in covering this news, because we haven't had access personally to these rallies, to these protests, and we should note that we had two members of our crew who've been here working very hard for the past couple of weeks. Their visas ran out today, and they went and requested an extension. They got a flat out no.

So we are understaff, shorthanded, and without going into too much detail, we've had to get really creative in gathering some eyes and ears and getting some help any which way we can to get access to these protests, to these rallies. We've had some people report back to us. And we convey the news back to you.

Also we've depended on amateur video accounts from people there. If you get one or two accounts, you may have some doubt, but we're getting many accounts, telling the same story, repeating to us, at these gatherings, including today, were absolutely massive. People coming out day after day.

And that's how we've had to do it and, again, another challenge facing us, because they've now limited us to one report per day. This is it, tomorrow they're allowing us to go to the Friday prayer. Beyond that, we're just taking it a day at a time, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we, of course, will be checking in with you. But very quickly, Reza, have we seen Ahmadinejad today? I know we spotted Mir Hossein Moussavi, the leading opposition figure. We saw him at one of those rallies. But what about the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? SAYAH: Well, he's laid low. He made his trip to Moscow earlier in the week. We understand he's back in Tehran, but we haven't heard from him ever since that press conference that he held two days after the elections. He's kind of laid low and keep in mind, that press conference was very much criticized for what he said.

And a lot of people came out. Even government officials criticizing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and blaming what he said in that press conference for some of the violence that ensued.

You'll recall in that press conference somebody asked him about the riots, the unrest in the streets, and he basically compared the unrest to fans of a losing football team. He said, it's not important. Certainly, this doesn't look anything like fans of a football team that has lost, because you know, they've been out day after day after day, and it's interesting.

We saw a sign the other on one of the protests, a message to the president, saying, "Mr. President, these elections are no football game."

BLITZER: Reza Sayah is our correspondent, in Tehran right now. I know you can only do one report each day. We'll check back with you tomorrow. Reza, thanks very much for your excellent, excellent reporting.

And we're not going far away from this dramatic story. History unfolding, and you're seeing it unfold right here on CNN.

For our viewers on CNN International, you connect the world starts right now. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's go Jack Cafferty. He's got the "Cafferty File."

Wow, Jack, this is the only report that Reza was allowed to do. One report a day. That's it. They're not allowing anymore.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: And he's obviously well versed in what he's covering. He's got some kind of access to a lot of information that I'll betcha the government of Iran would rather he not have, but he's doing -- he's doing yeoman's work there and I hope they let him stay.

When it comes to showing support for the hundreds of thousands of Iranian protesters, critics say President Obama is simply not doing enough. Republican congressman Mike Pence introduced a resolution that would, quote, "speak a word of support for the people of Iran."

He says he doesn't think the U.S. should endorse the opposition candidate but rather show support for the protesters who are risking their lives for free and fair elections. Those are his words.

Also, in "New York Times" reported today that while some senior administration officials like Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton support the president's approach they, too, would like to strike a stronger tone of support for the protesters. Other official, though, think a more cautious approach is the way to go. They say harsh criticism of Iran's government or more support for the protesters could end up backfiring by making it seem like the United States is behind these efforts. And some point out the president can only focus on the protesters since there are many issues to worry about when it comes to the nation of Iran including the nuclear one.

Despite President Obama's more muted response to events, the Iranian government is already accusing U.S. officials of meddling in their affairs. The State Department insists Washington is withholding judgment about the election and we're not interfering with Iran's internal affairs.

Anyway, here's the question. Should the United States be doing more to help the Iranian people? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

It's a sticky wicket as they say.

BLITZER: Yes. Very sticky indeed. All right, Jack, thank you.

With the tight restrictions on the media in Iran, many Iranians are relying on a TV station in California to find out what's happening in their own country. We're going to take you inside that TV station. Stand by.

And a whole world is watching the events in Iran. Our reporters will show you what people in other countries are seeing and saying.

Plus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton facing surgery right now and a change in her schedule after breaking her elbow.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Getting new pictures coming in from Iran all the time. Take a look at this. The funeral procession. The soldier killed in the clashes in Tehran one week, almost exactly one week since the election.

With the clampdown on the news media in Iran some people who live there are relying on a TV station half way around the world to provide coverage of these historic events.

Let's go to CNN's Kara Finnstrom. She's joining us now from Pars TV in California.

All right, tell us what's going on where you are, Kara.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've got some live programming going on here right now. We are in the control room for Pars, which about 28 years ago launched as the first independent Persian TV station to broadcast around the world and actually into Iran. You can see here that they've got some live programming under way. Right now they're actually bringing in something from one of their satellite bureaus in Texas, but that programming is about to change over to some programming out here in the studio.

Right here is where they've been bringing a lot of the video out of Iran. Salmon (ph) here has been kind of showing us this video throughout the day as it's coming in.

And can you tell us what we're looking at right here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the latest video from Iran that came out like, I think, 15 minutes ago. That's the image from today's demonstration in Tehran, and as you can see, all people are (INAUDIBLE), not all of them but most people are responding to that. Yes. This is the latest video we have.

FINNSTROM: This video, not that it, obviously, or verified by CNN, but continuing to come in here. And with so little coming out of Iran in the way of broadcast journalism. Very insightful and of course they're keeling a close eye on that.

And Wolf, I'll mention to you real quickly that they have been jammed, they say, by the government a number of time. Had their -- a number of times had their transmission signals actually jammed. They've actually had to change their frequency in order to keep on the air there in Iran.

BLITZER: Kara, thanks very much for that. Kara Finnstrom is in L.A.

Joining us now is Reza Aslan. He's an expert on Iran. His latest book is entitled "How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization and the End of the War on Terror."

Reza, thanks very much for coming in. And I know you have good sources in Iran, you're in touch with people over there. What are you hearing? What's going on right now?

REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, "HOW TO WIN A COSMIC WAR": Well, it seems that every day these protests are getting larger and larger. And today's protest, which is the morning ceremonies that Reza was talking about is almost a page taken out of the playbook of 1979, which, by the way, is not an accident.

I mean, most of the people who are behind the scenes of this current uprising in 2009 are the original revolutionaries 30 years ago. The people who know how to go about doing a popular protest like this.

And so you're going to see, I think, an even larger acceleration of people tomorrow for Friday prayers, and already Saturday, there's been another protest called, this one by former President Mohammed Khatami, who's been kind of absent up to this point and he is, by far, the most popular man in Iran. So this is just going to get bigger and bigger, it looks like, Wolf.

BLITZER: Can the Iranian regime clamp down completely and prevent these pictures, the words coming out on the Internet right now, what we're seeing?

ASLAN: No. There is no such thing as a media blackout in the year 2009. I mean if this were 1999 or if this were 1989, you know, we could sort of expect something like this happening. But it's absolutely impossible to keep these images out of the hands of the rest of the world.

And even despite all the attempts of the government to block access to Facebook and YouTube and Twitter, now we have hundreds of thousands of people outside of Iran who are sending free software that allows Iranians to bypass some of these restrictions, that have now even begun to hack into the Islamic Republic's own servers trying to fight fire with fire in a way.

There's a cyber revolution taking place as much as a revolution on the ground.

BLITZER: What should the U.S. be doing?

ASLAN: Nothing. I know that this is, you know, Jack's going to talk about this in a little while, and I understand, you know, particularly the criticisms from the right about maybe, perhaps having a more robust statement.

But this is an undeniable fact. There is nothing the president of the United States can do to help the situation in Iran. Whatever comes out of his mouth is just going to make things worse.

I think Obama has the perfect plan right now, is to keep out of this as much as possible. Allow the Iranians to deal with this. If violence breaks out, if things get out of control, then we have to expect a response from the United States. But right now the best thing that America can do is stay out of it.

BLITZER: And what do you suspect will happen in the coming days?

ASLAN: This really remains to be seen. I think that for a while there the government, the regime in Iran thought that if they could just stall for time, if they could call for a recount and maybe begin to address some of the fundamental grievances of the losing candidates, that ultimately, you know, this would just sort of peter out but, of course, the exact opposite has been happening.

The protests are becoming larger. The protesters themselves are becoming more emboldened by the government, giving way as little as it is, and more importantly, this protest is now longer about an election. It's now gone way beyond that. It's cutting across all the traditional boundaries in Iran between the rich and the poor, between the religious groups and the secular groups and so-called conservatives and the reformists.

This is now at the very core of what the Islamic Republic stands for. It's the legitimacy of the state that is at stake now, not just an election.

BLITZER: Reza Aslan, the author of the book, "How to Win a Cosmic War." Reza, thanks very much for coming in.

ASLAN: Anytime, Wolf.

BLITZER: She took a hard fall. Hillary Clinton's broken elbow. The upcoming surgery and the change for the secretary of state. We'll tell you what happened.

Plus there's a media crackdown in Iran but THE SITUATION ROOM has the video that's slipping through the government there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Alina Cho is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Alina, what's going on?

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Wolf, the U.S. military says right now it is tracking a North Korean ship that it believes is carrying illicit weapons or technology. A senior official says the ship is called the Kang Nam and it's in the Pacific right now.

Joint Chiefs of Staff admiral Mike Mullen says the U.S. won't forcibly board a North Korean ship but will request permission to search it for illegal material. North Korea has warned that any effort to stop one of its ships would be considered an act of war.

Well, it looks like Governor Sarah Palin isn't the only one mad about David Letterman's joke about her daughter. "Politico" is reporting the Olive Garden is, too. The restaurant chain is apparently canceling all of its scheduled ads on Letterman's late show for the rest of the year.

The company says the joke was, quote, "not consistent with our standards and values." This week you may recall that Letterman apologized to Palin for making a joke about her daughter.

And here's something you don't see every day. A carbon counter that tracks green house gas emissions. New Yorkers are now able to check out the 70-foot high billboard outside Madison Square Garden at Penn Station. And as of this morning that carbon counter stood at more than 3.6 trillion metric tons.

Wolf, I'm no expert, but that doesn't sound good.

BLITZER: No. Not at all. All right. Thanks very much a lot of times.

CNN right now is combing through the outpouring of pictures coming in from ordinary Iranians. We're going to show the dramatic images from inside today's massive protest. Pictures the international media can't get.

And our reporters around the world will show you what people in other countries are seeing or barred from seeing when it comes to the upheaval in Iran. And for the first time ever, the United States Senate officially apologizes to African Americans for slavery and segregation. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now in Iran, a sea of protesters in mourning in the streets of Tehran seen through the lens of iReporters reporters throughout the city. We have lots more images of this historic march. Stand by.

Drama in the skies. The pilot of a Continental jetliner dies in flight. We now know how long the transatlantic flight went without its captain.

And the U.S. military says it's tracking a North Korea ship right now in the Pacific Ocean because of concerns over its cargo. Could it be carrying nuclear material?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All that coming up. Let's get to more of our top story. Right now the breaking news out of Iran. There's a reason it's called the Islamic Republic of Iran, while politicians may struggle for power and the public may press for change, Iran's clerics are firmly in charge.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's got more on this part of the story. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are in charge but they are not a completely unified group. There are moderates as well as hard- liners among Iran's influential clerics. And how this struggle shakes down among them may be critical to how this whole thing resolves itself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): There are the public rallies. The public faces of this struggle for power. And then there are the largely unseen but enormously powerful few. Iran's clerics. The backbone of this theological government.

Analysts say they've traditionally lined up behind the conservative wing of Iran's government. But that seems to be changing.

KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: What we have seen, especially these last two weeks, are sacred red lines being crossed. Senior grand ayatollahs are beginning to challenge the institution of the supreme leader in Iran, the power of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

TODD: Experts point to at least three prominent ayatollahs who have come out and publicly criticized the election results, Yousof Sanei, Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, and Hossein Ali Montazeri, under house arrest for two decades, who was in line to replace the late Ayatollah Khomeini and was supplanted by the current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

Experts say the conservative wing has one menacing figure who works behind the scenes, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, spiritual mentor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

SADJADPOUR: He's kind of the Dick Cheney of Iranian politics, very hard-line, very much disliked. And he's someone that people are looking right now in terms of, you know, how he will react.

TODD: Most of these ayatollahs are based in the holy city of Qom. They carry huge moral influence and could sway public sentiment.

There's another group of clerics mostly below the local of ayatollah, the 80-plus-member Assembly of Experts, whose power is the suggest of debate.

MEHDI KHALAJI, SENIOR FELLOW, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Assembly of Experts have constitutional right to appoint or dismiss the leader and have supervision over his activities. But, in reality, Assembly of Experts never was a powerful body.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The Assembly of Experts is led by Iran's former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He's an opponent of Ahmadinejad's, who is now believed to have turned against the supreme leader as well.

Mr. Rafsanjani has kept a relatively low profile so far during this crisis, Wolf. His influence is said to be very, very strong, mostly behind the scenes. Not clear exactly what he's doing these days.

BLITZER: Could any of these groups of clerics turn the Revolutionary Guard, which is the real military muscle there, against the regime of President Ahmadinejad?

TODD: Analysts say that's unlikely. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, consolidated his power with the help of the Revolutionary Guard. He has backed them in turn. They are unlikely to turn against him.

But the Revolutionary Guard, experts say, is only about 150,000 to 170,000 people strong. If the moderate clerics get enough groundswell of support, they could turn millions of citizens against this. It could become a people's revolution. And the Revolutionary Guard could conceivably be overwhelmed just by the public.

BLITZER: Yes. This is, as I say, such a fluid and dramatic situation. We're watching history unfold.

Thanks very much.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Brian Todd doing some excellent reporting, as he always does.

This situation is changing almost hour by hour, and we're getting ready, as we have been reporting, for a huge day once again tomorrow. Today, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated peacefully on the streets of Tehran. Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is here. She's been monitoring the iReports coming into CNN from average folks on the ground in Iran.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: A lot of young people that we have been talking to, young people who have been out day after day, and are telling us here at CNN that today's rally was absolutely massive.

Let's show where you it started, in a square here, in Imam Khomeini Square, and heading north. Take a look what this street looked like earlier this afternoon in Tehran, from the pictures here from 18-year- old Omid (ph), who said he was there with her parents. He was there because they believed the election was a fraud.

He said it was calm, it was quiet, just like it's been in the last couple of days. Today's rally different because it was caused by called by Mir Hossein Mousavi himself, and he was there.

If we can advance the picture to -- you can see all the people who were capturing Mousavi on camera, as they saw him come to the crowds. He said -- Omid (ph) tells us that this is the only point when the silence was broken, that people were cheering, shouting slogans for their candidate.

The -- the rally today called to be -- people were supposed to be wearing black to be in mourning for people who are wounded, for people who have died in the earlier protests. But you still see the trademark green of the Mousavi campaign.

And it's interesting what happened during the evening. Lots of people were carrying candles as well, turned into a candlelight vigil some of the people who were lost or wounded in the last few days.

BLITZER: The two colors we green and black.

TATTON: For mourning.

BLITZER: Black for mourning.

All right, thanks very much, Abbi.

The whole world is certainly watching these dramatic events in Iran. In some countries, there's keen interest. But, in others, authorities are clearly uncomfortable about allowing coverage of this political upheaval.

Here's a sampling from our reporters around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Vause in Beijing.

The state-controlled media here has not gone big on the protests in Iran, barely mentioned on the television news, and then only talk of peaceful protests. The unrest is on the front pages, though, of many newspapers. In "The Global Times," for example, one analyst says it is the Western media which has exaggerated the full extent of the riots.

In the English-language "China Daily," the editorial says the matter should be resolved by Iranians themselves. China is much more concerned about comparisons between Tehran and Tiananmen.

Whenever that happens on CNN, for example, our broadcast goes to black here on the mainland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MONITA RAJPAL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Monita Rajpal in London, outside the Iranian Embassy here.

The number of protesters isn't as big as it has been over the last few day, but the message remains the same. Many are calling for change in Iran. Some, though, say that change doesn't necessarily mean a vote for Mousavi. They're saying a change in the entire system in Iran is what is needed.

Twitterers here in London are also very active. They're calling for more gatherings in Central London, but they are saying that the protests need to be peaceful. In the meantime, Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, is saying it isn't up to any outside government to back a candidate; it's up to the will of the people of Iran to decide.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ben Wedeman in Holon, Israel.

In this country, Iran is the top story day after day in every newspaper, in every news broadcast. Right now, we're in the studios of a radio station that broadcasts in Farsi over the Internet.

Now, one of the reasons for this intent interest in Iran in Israel is the fact that around 200 Israelis trace their origins back to Iran. Another, of course, is that Israel considers Iran a strategic threat.

Iran supports Hamas, supports Hezbollah. It has a nuclear program that Israelis are worried will be used to produce weapons against them. So, the fate of Ahmadinejad and his regime is something Israelis follow very, very closely.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And we're going to be getting more reports from our reporters from around the world with reaction to what's going on. Stand by for that.

The wrongs of the past acknowledged -- today, a rare move on Capitol Hill here in Washington, an apology to an entire group of Americans. Plus, President Obama in the spotlight -- in trying to keep his promise of transparency, is he, though, spending too much time on television?

And an emergency aboard a transatlantic flight -- the pilot of the jetliner dies. What happened next? And what the passengers knew.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: No voices of dissent today in the U.S. Senate to a resolution centuries in the making. The body issued a rare unanimous apology for the actions of past generations, in this case, slavery.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is here in THE SITUATION ROOM taking a look at this.

A national apology, how did it come about?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one senator called slavery an enduring national shame. And these lawmakers say that they had a moral obligation to -- to address what many have referred to as America's original sin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All those in favor say aye.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATORS: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those opposed no.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): A silence that spoke volumes, the Senate formally and for the first time apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and segregation, institutions sanctioned by Congress.

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: It's long past due. A national apology by the representative body of the people is a necessary, collective response to a past collective injustice.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: And we acknowledge that. We say it was wrong. And we ask for forgiveness for that.

BOLDUAN: The resolution states, the Senate "apologizes to African- Americans on behalf of the people of the United States for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws."

In a Capitol built by slaves, the moment especially poignant for the only African-American currently in the Senate, Roland Burris, the great-great-grandson of a slave.

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS: This resolution cannot erase the terrible legacy, but it can help to heal the wounds of centuries gone by.

BOLDUAN: The fell on the eve of Juneteenth, or June 19, the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery. Just a short distance from the Capitol, we asked African-Americans what this Senate vote meant to them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a long time coming, don't you think? But we have come a long way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't really do anything or address the problems that -- that we're facing in this country still.

BOLDUAN: Some African-American activists say the Senate vote is a first step, but not enough.

HILARY SHELTON, DIRECTOR, NAACP WASHINGTON BUREAU: Reparations has to be decided. That's something further down the line. There's nothing in this bill that refers to reparations one way or another.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Now, Congress has passed similar measures before apologizing to Japanese-Americans for internment during World War II, and, last year, apologizing to Native Americans for past instances of violence and neglect.

Now, lawmakers are planning a formal celebration to commemorate this resolution. And that's supposed to happen early next month -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The House of Representatives, they have to vote on this once again; isn't that right?

BOLDUAN: Right. The House last year, in the last Congress, passed a similar measure, but will have to vote again on this resolution. They say that could happen as early as next week, and is -- should pass overwhelmingly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan, thanks very much.

Let's move on. We want to turn the economy right now and what President Obama has in store. There are new polls that -- showing he's still very, very popular, but it appears some Americans are starting to have second thoughts about his economic strategies and what they will cost.

We know for sure they will cost a lot of money.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's got more on some poll numbers that we're seeing.

Gloria, some of these numbers may be a little bit discouraging for the president.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the good news, Wolf, as you point out, is that the president is still popular, somewhere in all these polls between 56 percent and 63 percent.

Some more good news for him is that 72 percent of the American public says, not your fault. You inherited all of these terrible economic problems.

But there's a but here. And that is, when you ask people about whether the president is going down the right road on the economy and the way he's going to fix it, they have one major concern. And that's really the deficit.

Take a look at this. Thirty-five percent of them said, just boost the economy now, worry about the deficit later. But 58 percent said, wait a minute, you have to worry more about keeping the deficit down. And that's really a problem, Wolf, for this president when he's heading into a health care reform package that could cost a trillion dollars over the next 10 years.

BLITZER: What about his support among the so-called independent voters, who are so critical?

BORGER: Independent voters have been very important to him. This is a president who likes to talk about bipartisanship.

But he's losing support among independents. Take a look at this poll, also from "The Wall Street Journal." In April, independents approved of the job President Obama was doing 60 percent to 31 percent. In June, the approval rate has declined, 46 percent, to 44 percent disapproval. So it dropped from a 2-1 approval rating to just over 50 percent. That's good, but it's still not where it was.

It's heading in the wrong direction, as far as the White House is concerned.

BLITZER: And we have more poll numbers coming up in the next hour. Bill Schneider is taking a closer look, significant numbers.

Thanks very much.

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: She was preparing for a trip overseas next week. Now the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is sidelined. How will Secretary Clinton's broken elbow impact her job and her standing?

And a massive crowd of protesters filling the streets, the world watching right now as history is made in Iran. We're going to take you inside that country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Surgery and a drastically changed schedule, that's what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now faces, after falling yesterday and cracking her elbow.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's taking a close look at this story.

Two questions jumped up out at me, Brian. How's she coping personally? Because I know that can be very, very painful. I have friends who have undergone that. TODD: Right.

And how is it affecting her professional life, her schedule and all of that?

TODD: Well, a State Department official, Wolf, says this was a simple, straightforward fracture.

But we have learned that there are different technical terms for different types of elbow breaks. So, we may find out more detail about Mrs. Clinton's injury in the coming days.

We know that she fell down last evening, broke part of her right elbow. That's the elbow she writes with. She is working from home today, will have surgery in the coming weeks. Now, a short time ago, I spoke with a prominent orthopedic surgeon at Washington Hospital Center, Dr. David Johnson has done hundreds of elbow surgeries.

He says the fact that surgery was not performed immediately could well mean that they're waiting for swelling to go down. I asked him how painful this break could be and how it could restrict her movement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DAVID JOHNSON, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: As you can see here on this diagram, the elbow is made up of three different bones. And it makes the -- the -- the elbow a very persnickety joint as far as movement is concerned.

There are lots of nerve fibers around the elbow. Any break here will be very, very painful. The elbow will swell. And movement will be very difficult. The person who has a broken elbow will have difficulty positioning the hand where they want it to be, such as feeding themselves or writing.

It can be a -- a difficult thing for them, and a very painful thing, having a fracture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Dr. Johnson says Mrs. Clinton could also have trouble brushing her teeth, combing her hair, but that patients with these breaks quickly learn to improvise.

Mrs. Clinton is expected to travel next week to Greece and Italy. So far, she hasn't canceled that trip. Dr. Johnson says, if this is what he called an electrode nonfracture -- now, that's one that is affecting bone on the pinkie finger side of the forearm -- if it's that kind of fracture, she should be able to travel, Wolf.

Not clear, though, what kind of fracture this is. And he got very technical with me. You know, it's going to -- we're going to take some time to learn some -- some really specific detail about this particular break.

BLITZER: I know you are going to be continuing to look into this story.

What about painkillers? She is going to be in pain or already in pain. Would she have to use painkillers, and could that affect her thinking?

TODD: Dr. Johnson says, in almost every instance, painkillers are used. But it won't necessarily affect her judgment or her thinking.

And he says that, after about 72 hours, when the elbow is immobilized, maybe set in a splint or something like that, or at least, you know, set in a certain position, without moving it, then the pain will go down. The swelling will go down. She may not need a painkiller at all. She may need just minute amounts of them after that.

These first couple of days, though, are going to be very difficult.

BLITZER: Our heart goes out to her. And good luck to Secretary Clinton.

Let's talk a little about this and more. Joining us now in our "Strategy Session," two guests, Jennifer Palmieri, former strategist for the John Edwards campaign, used to work in the Clinton White House, and Karen Hanretty, Republican strategist, former spokeswoman for the Fred Thompson presidential campaign.

You know, your heart's got to go out to the former first lady, the secretary of state. Just when she sort of was finding her groove doing what she was doing as secretary of state, a huge setback to her -- to her elbow.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don't think -- she doesn't get knocked out of her groove very easily. So, I imagine -- I mean, knowing Hillary, I think that she will -- you know, she will go through her surgery.

And I don't imagine it will -- it hasn't stopped her from working now. I don't think it's going to keep her on the sidelines or at least stop her from working a long time.

BLITZER: What do you think?

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think, broken elbow or no broken elbow...

(LAUGHTER)

HANRETTY: ... she's got sharp elbows. And I think we -- what we have seen her go through in her personal life and on the campaign trail, I find it hard to believe anyone is going to sideline Mrs. Clinton.

BLITZER: A temporary setback.

HANRETTY: Yes. I think it's very temporary.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Is that what you're both -- you're both saying? Although there is little bureaucratic turf wars going on right now. And she was really getting into it with some -- with some of -- some of the potential rivals out there. And she's got a few, as you well know.

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: Well, I would say it's a national security team, not really a national security...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And we quickly put some pictures up there of some potential rivals, including the national security adviser, General Jones, and Robert Gates, the defense secretary, Holbrooke, the special envoy for Afghanistan...

PALMIERI: Right.

BLITZER: ... Mitchell, the special envoy for the Middle East.

There's a lot of stuff going on right now. And she's going to be out of commission, at least for a few days.

PALMIERI: I don't think that -- you know, first of all, they are -- they are a national security team. I don't see -- we haven't seen a lot of evidence of -- of -- of rivalry breaking out.

And I think that with -- you have some of these strong personalities there, that they seem to be working together pretty well. And I just don't think that, even if -- even if Secretary Clinton was out of commission for a couple of days, the notion that she would be set back in terms of her stature or her abilities, I just don't think is going to happen.

BLITZER: You probably agree?

HANRETTY: Yes. It's not that long. Probably the only one sitting back wondering, "Maybe this is my big chance," is Joe Biden. But, you know, that's just Joe Biden, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Let me play this little clip Bill Maher on his show, "Real Time With Bill Maher," because he was really complaining about the president and his presence on TV.

(CROSSTALK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": It's getting to where you can't turn on your TV without seeing Obama. Who does he think he is, Dick Cheney?

This is not getting the job done. And this is not what I voted for. And this is why I don't want my president...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MAHER: This is why I don't want my president to be a TV star.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And he's going to be all over TV. He did that long NBC inside-the-White House tour. He's got a health care event with ABC. He's got a Father's Day event with CBS.

PALMIERI: Right. Right. Right.

BLITZER: He's all over the place. Bill Maher and some others are saying, you know what? This is not a good idea for the -- from the president's perspective.

You used to work in the communications department...

PALMIERI: Right.

BLITZER: ... at the Clinton White House. What do you think?

PALMIERI: Right.

I think that the Obama team is particularly good at living in the real world, as opposed to getting too tripped up on political perceptions. And I think that, if -- you know, if the -- if the president's television appearances were truly affecting his ability to do his job, that might be one thing. Clearly, they are not.

And I think that, when you have such big -- when he's got such big battles in front of him, particularly health care, to spend time on ABC talking about health care and, you know, really informing people about the debate is a useful thing.

BLITZER: What do you think? Is he overexposed or doing the right thing?

HANRETTY: Well, I think -- I'm really curious to see how this health care show comes out.

I mean, look, we saw in the last polling, people are concerned about the budget deficit. You can't talk about health care without talking about, how are you going to pay for it? The question is, is ABC actually going to devote any real time to talking about, how do you pay for it? If they do, this might actually backfire on him.

But this is a man who's done two national prime-time press conferences that were unprecedented, goes on "Jay Leno." I think, at some point, you know, you risk overexposure, but not for the reason Bill Maher is saying, that he's not working. That's just silly.

BLITZER: We have got to -- we have got to leave it there, guys.

Thanks very much.

The United States tracking a North Korean ship right now in the Pacific -- what our Pentagon correspondents are telling -- our Pentagon correspondent is telling us about what's going on and what might happen next.

Plus, a -- the pilot of a major airliner dies midflight. What was it like for the passengers on board that plane? We will tell you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question at this hour is, should the United States be doing more to help the people in Iran, the protesters?

Jack writes from Texas: "We are probably doing more behind the scenes. I don't think we should be doing more than we are doing publicly at this time. I think President Obama is walking a tightrope, and he's doing it very well. I support him in his approach."

Stacy in Florida says: "The president is doing the right thing. Stay out of this. The Iranian government is already accusing the U.S. of meddling. If we really start to meddle, the situation will blow up in our face, we will be blamed for the whole election scam, and all the Muslim world will believe it. A bit of U.S.-Iranian dialogue has just begun. Don't kill it. The problem will be and should be solved by the Iranians."

Denise in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania: "As I listen to the Bush-like comments of John McCain, I am frankly relieved that he was not elected president. His hawkish rhetoric, along with the attitudes of many conservatives who have been critical of the president's restraint, terrify me. Imagine where we would be if they had prevailed last November. We would be on the brink of war."

Dick in Mississippi writes: "I find myself surprisingly in agreement with Obama on this issue, perhaps for the only time. This is delicate. And, officially, our stance should be very reticent. Hopefully, the administration hasn't run off all the good black-ops people, and the CIA is working the heck out of this for us."

And Robin in Michigan writes this: "I think the U.S. is in a very tough position, given their strained relationship with Iran. However, the fact that the State Department asked Twitter to forgo closing down service for scheduled maintenance two days ago speaks volumes. They clearly did not want the Iranian protesters to lose this important tool. And I believe they also wanted the people inside Iran to be able to receive the messages of support from the American people."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there, among hundreds of others.

It doesn't look like the protesters are getting tired yet, does it, Wolf?

BLITZER: Not at all. They may just be starting.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.